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April 2009


Manufacturing Tomorrow’s Workforce

...more training would make him a more valuable employee.

by Tracey Lamphere

South Texas College offers customized training options.

Raul Gutierrez, 33, of McAllen, has worked for five years as a machine operator for GE Aviation. At GE’s request, he entered a three-year machinist apprenticeship program at South Texas College (STC), which he completed this past November. Two months later, the company promoted him to machine specialist, which came with a 20 percent pay increase.

“With all the knowledge that you come out of there with, it is worth the time and effort put into it,” Gutierrez says. “Now it’s not as hard to make ends meet each month, and my wife says she’s proud of me.”

The pay increase also allowed Gutierrez to buy his first house for his young family.

Wanda Garza, executive officer for the North American Advanced Manufacturing Research & Education Initiative (NAAMREI) and STC says community colleges adapt to changing work force demands and are more accessible to people.

“Community colleges are more responsive to achieving that goal,” she says. “The community college system is a true asset for Texas.”

Leading the Charge

The college’s main campus in McAllen recently became the headquarters for NAAMREI – a collaboration of manufacturers’ associations, colleges, and government and finance entities. The initiative, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, seeks to increase the number of high-wage manufacturing jobs in the Rio South Texas region by almost 45 percent, to at least 25,000 by 2017. NAAMREI officials say advanced manufacturing provides the greatest economic boost of all industry clusters, with every dollar of goods produced generating an additional $1.43 for the Texas economy.

For the past five years, STC has been the lead agency for the Rio South Texas Manufacturing College Alliance, which recently established an Institute for Advanced Manufacturing at STC that provides customized training to workers. Texas State Technical College Harlingen, Laredo Community College and University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College were also named Institutes for Advanced Manufacturing.

In 2007, the alliance received $3 million from the Texas Workforce Commission to provide advanced manufacturing training to at least 2,500 people during the next three years. In its first year, the alliance has trained about 1,600 people.

Onward and Upward

After his promotion to maintenance manager at Humanetics in McAllen, Lupe Quintanilla enrolled in STC’s leadership training at his employer’s request. Believing more training would make him a more valuable employee, Quintanilla enrolled in additional classes. Two months later, he received another promotion and an 8.7 percent pay raise.

Similarly, Gutierrez hopes to achieve more educational goals, such as earning his machinist programmer certification, which in Texas pays an average hourly wage of $15.70, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With three to four more classes, he could earn his associate degree.

Wanda Garza, executive officer for Workforce Development and External Affairs at South Texas College

More than anything, Gutierrez wanted to set a good example for his 2-year-old son.

“Of the six people who started the machine specialist class, I was the only one who finished,” he says.

He was also the first student to complete the certification program.

“There were times I got frustrated, but I would tell myself ‘I need to do this,’” Gutierrez says. “I didn’t want my kid to find out later that his dad quit something.” FN

To see how South Texas College’s Institute for Advanced Manufacturing is helping industry, visit http://manufacturing.southtexascollege.edu.

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